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Vol. II 




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Medical Techniques and Practices 
in Mughal India 


Unani Medicine owes its origin to the works of Hippocrates (c. 460 
BC - c. 370 BC) who established that the disease was a natural process, 
while its symptoms were the reactions of the body to the disease, which 
can be reversed by a person acquainted with them. With the rise of the 
Arabs, this system of medicine was further enriched. Scholars like Ibn 
Zuhr, al-Razi, Ibn Sina, Ibn Nafis, az-Zahrawi, Ibn al Baytar and many 
others contributed to its development. 

With the Arab conquest of Sind, India came into contact with this 
Greco-Arab system of medicine, and by the time of the Khalji Sultans, it 
spread over a large territory. 1 In India this system gradually emerged as 
a hybrid Muslim-Hindu system known as the tibb. With the advent of the 
Mughals in India, this system came to flourish in its own right. 2 Our 
contemporary sources, both Persian and non-Persian, give us much 
information regarding its techniques and practices. 

Like the western medical episteme, the European system of medicine, 
the tibb was also humoral though varied much as far as practice was 
concerned. It was probably due to this reason that the Europeans 
continued to look down upon it, commenting on the condition of physicians 
(hakims / tabibs) and medicine (tibb) in India, Fryer observes that the 
Indian Physicians neither understood the pulse nor did they treat other 
ailments. 3 Careri goes still further when he says, 'In Physick they (the 
Indians) have but small skill, and cure several Diseases by Fasting.' 4 
Manucci sums up the issue by exclaiming 'From such doctors and such 
drugs libera nos Dominel' 5 This European perception of the Indian 
techniques and practice of the tibb appears to have extended into the 
eighteenth century. Thus a European traveller, Edward Ives, during the 
eighteenth century commenting on the 'Indian system' writes: 


Man was divided into two or three thousand parts; ten thousand of which were 
made up of veins, ten thousand of nerves, seventeen thousand of blood, and a 
certain number of bones, choler, lymph, etc. And all this was laid down without 
form or order, either of history, disease or treatment. 6 

On the other hand, it is important to note that although both the 
European and the Indian systems failed to develop a comprehensive theory 
of disease causation, as pointed out by Deepak Kumar, 7 there developed 
a general agreement among the European physicians in India that Indian 
diseases were environmentally determined and should be treated by 
Indian methods. Careri, whose opinion about the tibb we have already 
noted, in a very perceptive passage articulates this and suggests that 
persons suffering from particular kind of diseases found in India respond 
more naturally only to the treatment given by the Indian physicians: 

Experience [has] shown that European Medicines are of no use there. The 
Physitions that go out of Portugal into those parts, must at first keep company 
with the Indian Surgeons to be fit to Practice, otherwise if they go about to cure 
those Distempers, so far different from ours after the European manner, they 
may chance to Kill more than they Cure. 8 

A number of tropical diseases and their cures were also disseminated 
from the Indies to Europe. A Portuguese physician, Garcia da Orta came 
to India in 1534 and remained there a physician to the governors of Goa 
and subsequently served under Burhan Nizam Shah of Ahmadnagar till 
his death. In 1563 he wrote his important work Colloquies on the Simples, 
Drugs and Materia Medica of India which gives the first account of the 
treatment of cholera which he learnt from the practices of the Indian 
physicians. 9 

Commenting on the level of medical education in India, John Fryer, 
himself an English physician, and an M.D. from Cambridge, suggests that 
the field of medical science in India 

...was open to all Pretenders, here being no Bars of Authority, or formal 
Graduation, Examination or Proof of their Proficiency; but everyone suffers; 
and those that are most skilled, have it by Tradition, or former Experience 
descending to their Families. 10 

A close reading of our sources however gives us contrary information. 
Although there were not many separate colleges exclusively dealing with 
the medical sciences, as in Alleppo, Egypt or Persia, their existence in 
India as well is testified. Monserrate pointedly mentions 'a very famous 
school of medicine' in Sirhind, 'from which doctors are sent all over the 
empire.' 11 Similarly Abdul Baqi Nahawandi mentions the madrasa of 
Hakim Shams and Hakim Mu'in at Thatta, where these two well known 
physicians would give lectures on medicine. 12 We hear of several other 
madrasas, spread from Punjab to Gujarat, opened and run by the 
physicians, where presumably the curriculum also included a study of 


texts on tibb. . This impression is strengthened by Abu-1 Fazl's statement 
in A'in-i Akbari, that Akbar had directed the inclusion of tibb with the 
other sciences in the school curriculum. 13 The well-known Nizami course 
included, besides other texts, the following renowned texts on tibb: Sharh- 
iAsbab, Mu'jaz al-Qanun, Qanun of Abu 'Ali Sina, al-Nafisi and Hidayah- 
i Sa'ida. 14 

In fact, a perusal of the Persian sources shows that medical education 
of the tablbs and hakims was tutor-oriented. 

'Abdul Qadir Badauni, the famous historian and critic of Akbar's reign, 
in his book of ethics, Nijat ur-Rashid, which he composed in 1590-91, while 
providing an insight into the code of ethics to be followed by the physicians 
(see Appendix) asserts: 

Just as legal opinion given without knowledge can ruin spiritual life, so medical 
treatment given without wisdom can destroy physical life. Any one who has not 
read the books of medicine with reputed physicians for a number of years, not 
put them to use for long years of life, nor obtained knowledge of the properties 
of drugs, nor received authorization for medical practice from masters [in the 
profession], but simply wishes that by force of some intuition, he may treat 
people without having any experience and consider it the means of gaining 
proximity to rulers and kings, is not a physician, no expert master, but a blood- 
shedder like a crude executioner. It is incumbent on the rulers of Islam to 
suppress such repute-less set [of persons]. [Emphasis added] 

Thus those desirous of learning medicine, would go, apart from 
madrasas, to some reputed physician and get the required education from 
him. 15 Badauni explicitly informs that Hakim 'Ali Gilani had acquired 
his knowledge in the company of Hakim ul-Mulk Shamsuddin Gilani and 
Shah Fathullah Shirazi. 16 

In fact we have the evidence that a sizeable number of physicians of 
the Mughal period went to reputed centres of medical education located 
in Lahijan (Gilan), Mashhad, Isfahan and Shiraz. 17 An example can be 
given of Hakim Hashim, tutor of Aurangzeb, who stayed in the Iranian 
centres of medical education in Mashhad and Shiraz for twelve years 
before opening his own madrasa at Ahmadabad. 18 

Practical training to the budding tabibs, as recommended by Badauni 
in Nijat ur Rashid, was given in madrasas attached to shifakhanas 
(hospitals), which thus would act as modern 'medical colleges.' 19 During 
the reign of Shahjahan, a government hospital was constructed at Delhi 
near Chowri Bazar, 'for the treatment of travellers and students (talib-i 
'ilman) who cured the sick.' 20 A reference to a 'school of medicine' at Sirhind 
has already been given, from where, according to Fr Monserrate, 'doctors 
are sent out all over the empire.' 21 Monserrate was probably referring to a 
medical college. Another government hospital that flourished was the dar 
ush shifa of Ahmadabad, where Shahjahan appointed Hakim Mir 


Muhammad Hashim as the head. 22 This hospital was meant for treating 
the poor 23 and Unani as well as Ayurvedic (tibb-i hindi) physicians and 
surgeons were appointed here. We hear of two more government hospitals 
the dar ush shifa at Aurangabad and the dar ush shifa at Surat. 24 

Apart from government 'medical colleges', hospitals with training 
facilities could also be established by nobles. During Jahangir's reign 
Saif Khan built a hospital complex at Jeetalpur comprising a mosque a 
madrasa and a shifa khana which treated the poor. 25 During the same 
reign, Hakim Alimuddin Wazir Khan constructed a madrasa and a dar 
ush shifa along with other buildings at his native town of Chiniot in the 
Punjab, and dedicated those to the residents of that town. 26 

Another form in which sometimes the education in tibb may have been 
imparted was through training in the dawakhanas (dispensaries) and 
sharbatkhanas (Syrup Houses) run through state munificence. 27 If a 
person was not able to procure a sanad(certificate) from a recognized tabib 
he was not considered up to the mark to be appointed or consulted. 28 

Before a physician or a surgeon could join a service he had to pass 
certain tests. Extreme care was taken to select or appoint only the most 
accomplished and experienced physician. 29 We know that in the Indian 
system of medicine there was much emphasis on urine analysis and urine 
therapy. Thus when Hakim Ali Gilani was being considered for 
appointment, he had to pass through a test set for him by Akbar The 
emperor ordered several bottles containing the urine of sick and healthy 
persons, as also that of cattle and asses, to be brought before the hakim 
for detection. Only after the hakim diagnosed each one of them was he 
taken into imperial service. 30 

However, to be appointed as a physician in a government hospital 
recommendations had to be made by the bakhshiov some other responsible 
person. 31 

Similar tests to check the ability of the physician were taken before 
he was actually allowed to treat his patients. Manucci recounts how he 
was tested before being allowed to treat a princess while in the retinue of 
Prince Shah Alam: 

It is also the custom to probe the Physicians by such trickeries in order to be 
assured of their ability and of their recognition of diseases She (the princess) 
made out she was ill, and caused to be sent to me a vessel full of urine with an 
enquiry whether I could recognise from it the disease she was suffering from 
Seeing that the liquid was green, and seemed to have some drug mixed with it 
I set my imagination to work, and answered with a smile that the urine came 
from a person who had eaten largely of green stuff the preceding night As soon 
as I pronounced these words there was a great burst of laughter behind the 
curtains of the bed, and they said I was a great doctor. In the end they informed 
me it was the urine of a cow. 32 


Similarly Fryer was asked to feel and recognize a healthy person's 
pulse before being let to examine that of the ailing daughter of a local 
chieftain. 33 

Manucci also makes it clear that purdah was strictly observed while 
a physician would consult his female patient. Curtains would be placed 
to screen the patient to shield her from the gaze of the doctor. At another 
place Manucci also observes that before being conducted into the royal 
harem or that of a noble, the physician was covered from head to waist 
with a cloth and accompanied by eunuchs. 34 Generally a set of rooms, styled 
as bimarkhana was assigned for the ailing lady in the haram. 35 While 
visiting a patient, the physician would generally wear white attire and 
would carry no weapons upon his person. Manucci further informs us that 
in the case of a patient being of royal blood, prior permission had to be 
taken from the emperor in order to start the treatment. 36 He further says 
that it was not the practice among princes and nobles to talk or have any 
sort of relations with the servants of other nobles or princes for fear of 
treason. This applied to Physicians particularly. When in 1683 Diler Khan, 
enemy of Prince Shah Alam fell ill and with fair promises summoned 
Manucci to treat him, the prince strictly refused permission. 37 

It also appears that there was a hierarchical division among the 
physicians who were in Imperial service, under the nobles, or serving in a 
hospital. There used to be a chief physician under whose charge a number 
of subordinate physicians and surgeons were placed and they were bound 
to obey his orders. 38 This chief physician, in Mughal terminology, was 
known as saramad-i atibba or saramad-i hukama. 39 The chief physician 
of the hospital on the other hand was known as 'hakim-i dar al-shifa". 
There could also be a superintendent of hospital, the 'darogha-i dar ush 
shifa'. i0 

Mughal miniatures also confirm the hierarchical division of the 
physicians. In three or four miniatures, a chief physician (saramad-i 
atibba) is depicted tending the patients along with his subordinate 
colleagues. 41 

As far as the druggists and apothecaries are concerned, one may note 
that this particular sector of the medical service was very under-developed 
in Mughal India. The antidotes and potions prescribed by the physicians 
would rarely be available in the market. Perhaps pharmacies selling 
readymade medicines which existed were confined to important towns. 
In 1581 one finds Hakim Abul Fath Gilani, then at Lahore, procuring his 
antidotes and medicines through his brother Hakim Humam, who was at 
Fathpur Sikri. 42 

During the period under discussion, nurses and midwives were not 
actually missing. Muhammad Salih mentions a certain Satiunnisa 


Khanam who performed the duties of a nurse in the royal harem. 43 If Fryer 
is to be believed, the services of mid-wives were needed only by the rich. 44 
Due to this reason it was thus not an economically viable profession. 45 

Medical certificates were also in vogue during the Mughal period. 
Badauni informs us that when he presented himself before the emperor 
after an absence of five months, he had to produce medical certificates to 
substantiate his claim of being ill: 

The Emperor asked how long I had been absent from my post? He 
(Hakim Humam) replied, Five months. The Emperor asked, On 
what pretext? He replied on the score of sickness. And he brought 
a petition from the grandees of Badaun and a report from Hakim 
Ainul Mulk to the same effect from Delhi' 46 

A general view which has found currency is that the physicians were 
completely dependent on royal patronage, or on the service of and 
endowments from the aristocracy. It is also sometimes held that the 
demand for the service was very limited. 47 This erroneous view seems to 
be based mainly on Tavernier's observation to the effect that: all the countries we have just passed through, both in the Kingdom of 
Carnatic and the Kingdoms of Golkonda and Bijapur, there are hardly any 
physicians except those in the service of the Kings and Princes. 48 

But what the statement reveals is that Golconda and Bijapur were 
different in this respect from other areas. We have already noted that 
there were numerous physicians in Mughal India who ran their own 
clinics, imparted education and treated the poor. Apart from the evidence 
already cited, there are many more references to private practitioners. 
Some of them however, were no more than quacks (na-tablb), a fact borne 
out by Badauni. 49 Manucci too, in one of his passages, refers to these 
unqualified bazaar physicians. While giving an account of the caravan 
sarais, he mentions the 'endless cheating physicians' who pestered the 
travellers. 50 

These bazaar physicians appear to have lived mainly on private 
practice. For instance, Badauni uses the term mutabib-Sirhindi, that is, 
a private practitioner of Sirhind, when he mentions Shaikh Hasan, father 
of Shaikh Bhina, the surgeon. 61 Banarsi Das, in his Ardha Kathanak, 
mentions a physician (baid) of Jaunpur who treated him when he was 
young. He also mentions a nai (literally, barber), a term applied to local 
surgeons, who treated him for syphilis at Khairabad in 1602. 52 When his 
father fell ill in 1616, he was treated by yet another private practitioner 
at Banaras. 53 During Shahjahan's reign a physician called Hakim Basant 
had a flourishing practice at Lahore. Surat Singh mentions a 'specialist' 
of dog-bite at Kalanaur, to whom hapless patients would be carried. 54 
During the reign of Aurangzeb, Hakim Muhammad Abdullah practiced 


and taught at Agra. 55 Balkrishan Brahman, a petty official, in his letters 
written during the reign of Aurangzeb, mentions local medical 
practitioners like Balram Misr and Manka Tabib at Hissar Firoza. In one 
of his letters recommending Manka Tabib to a mansabdar for employment, 
he certified that 'a large number of people have benefited by associating 
with him'. 56 The presence of Hindu bazaar physicians in the south is 
attested to by a number of European travellers. 57 

The practice of setting up private clinics in the bazaarsby physicians 
also finds place in the Mughal miniatures. A miniature attributed 
randomly to Abul Hasan and pertaining to the reign of Jahangir reminds 
us of Tavernier's descriptions. It depicts a physician sitting under a canopy 
(shamiana) on a platform and advising an old patient. 58 On the platform 
on which he sits are displayed vials, bottles, jars, cups and bags containing 
a number of drugs, viz. su/uf (powder), sharbats (syrups) and 'arq 
(medicinal liquid extracts). A number of books and a small mortar and 
pestle to mix the medicines are also seen. On one of the bottles is inscribed 
'sharbat-i diq' (syrup for the treatment of consumption). Every bottle and 
bag is labelled. Behind the physician stands a boy, who probably acted as 
his assistant. 

Thus we see that not only was there considerable scope for private 
practice, in many cases physicians preferred establishing private clinics 
to government posts or accepting patronage from a noble. Yet, interestingly 
enough, we know on the testimony of Fryer that there was no dearth of 
physicians who coveted employment under a noble. 59 Presumably this was 
so because employment under a noble gave them a feeling of security and 
ensured a comparatively small but steady income. 60 

These medical practitioners tended to be very hostile to their European 
counterparts. Partly this might have been an outcome of the European 
physicians assuming superior airs vis-a-vis the Indian physicians. As 
Manucci tells us, the Europeans were often not agreeable to acceptying 
salaries on a par with those of Indian physicians. 61 However, Linschoten 
speaks very reverentially of the Indian physicians who, he says, had no 
scruples in treating the natives and Europeans alike. 62 

As far as the state of knowledge in the field of medicine during the 
Mughal period is concerned, many modern scholars, following the 
testimony of the European travellers of the seventeenth century, have 
expressed serious reservations. As a matter of fact, Manucci held a firm 
belief that these tabibs had no knowledge of medicine and were certainly 
not in a position to cure the stone, paralysis, epilepsy, dropsy, anaemia, 
malignant fevers or other difficult complaints. 63 

The available evidence, however, suggests that the medical profession 
in Mughal India had achieved a considerable degree of specialization 


within the framework of Graeco-Arab medical science. The hakims, tabibs 
and jarrahs (surgeons) appear to have had amongst them 
ophthalmologists, specialized surgeons, pharmacologists, veterinarians, 
sexologists and anatomists. Manucci admits that the tabibs of the period 
were well-versed in the science of pharmacy. He says: 

in this country it is incumbent on a doctor to prepare medicines, ointments and 
distillation — in fact all things that appertain to the apothecary's office. Many a 
time it is also necessary to instruct as to the fashion of preparing the patient's 
food. 64 

The preparation of medicines was considered the responsibility of the 
physicians who prescribed them. The prescriptions, however, were 
generally kept a secret by physicians from one another due to rivalry 
among them. 65 This was, perhaps, an important factor inhibiting the 
growth of pharmaceutical establishments. Generally, pharmaceutical 
preparations consisting of sufuf (powder), mahlul (suspension), majun and 
jawarish (electuaries), sharbat (syrups), 'arq (distilled medicinal water) 
and mixtures were prepared by the physicians themselves. Sometimes 
the physician possessed expertise in more than one field. For instance, 
during the reigns of Babur and Humayun, Hakim Yusum bin Muhammad 
Yusufi, who migrated to India along with Babur, was an expert in 
symptomatology, therapeutics, ophthalmology and general medicine. He 
was the author of at least twelve books. Two of his treatises dealing with 
symptomatology are preserved in the Maulana Azad Library, Aligarh. 66 
His Fawa'id-ul Akhyar and Ilajul Amraz deal with hygiene and 
therapeutics. 67 He also compiled a short discourse on eye diseases and 
their cures. 68 Similary, Hakim Muhammad bin Yusuf ut Tabib al-Harawi, 
personal physician of Babur, was, in addition to his other accomplishment 
as tabib, one of the most widely-read pathologists of his time. 69 Hakim 
Abdur Razzaq, who was a contemporary of Humayun, wrote Khulasat-ut 
Tashrih, which deals with human anatomy. 70 

During Akbar's reign, much stress seems to have been laid on surgery. 
Wounds were treated and blood-letting performed by persons known as 
jarrah (surgeons). Shaikh Bhina, Mulla Qutbuddin Kuhhal (eye surgeon?), 
Hakim Biarjiu, Hakim Bhairon and Chandrasen were all reputed to be 
accomplished surgeons. 71 Hakim Shaikh Bhina wrote a book on medical 
prescriptions which is popularly known as Mujarrabat-i Shaikh Bhina. 72 
Hakim 'Ainul Mulk 'Dawwani' Shirazi excelled himself in the field of 
opthalmology. 73 He was also an expert in the use of collyrium and 
pharmacology. 74 His treatise, Fawuid ul-Insun, is a work on pharmacology 
in versified form. 75 Muhammad Hakim Gilani had expertise in sexology. 76 
Hakim Ali Gilani, one of the most accomplished physicians of Akbar's 
reign, apart from his formula of roghan-i deodar, had also prepared 
sharbat-i kaifnak, which helped in alleviating exhaustion. 77 He also had 


considerable knowledge in fields like osteology (study of bone structures), 
myology (study of muscles), angiology, neurology and the digestive 
system. 78 Hakim Fathullah Shirazi translated the famous Qanun of Abu 
Ali Sina (Avicenna) into Persian for the benefit of the people. 79 Muhammad 
Qasim Ferishta, the famous author of Tarikh-i Ferishta, wrote Dastur-i 
Atibba, now popularly known as Tibb-i Ferishta, in order to create among 
the Muslims an interest in the Indian system of medicine. 80 During the 
same reign, Ma'sum Bhakhari, author of Tarikh-i Sindh, compiled a 
treatise on the treatment of diseases and drugs. 81 Similarly, in 1556 
Shaikh Tahir authored Fawaid-ul Fuad, dealing with general medicine. 82 

During the reign of Jahangir, Muqarrab Khan and Hakim Ali Akbar 
were renowned surgeons. 83 Muqarrab Khan was also an expert bleeder 
and veterinarian. 84 Later his nephew Hakim Qasim also grew to become 
an expert bleeder. 85 Amanullah Firoz Jang Khanazad Khan, son of 
Mahabat Khan, famous noble under Jahangir and Shahjahan, had a sound 
understanding of medicine. His Ganj-i Bad Awurd is a good work on 
pharmacology. His second work, Ummul Ilaj, is a treatise on purgatives. 86 

Under Shahjahan as well, much work was done on pharmacology. 
Sheikh Muhammad Tahir, Hakim Ma'sum Shustari and Hakim Nuruddin 
Muhammad 'Ainul Mulk, grandson of Hakim Shamsuddin Ali Dawani 
'Ainul Mulk (of Akbar's reign), have left behind books on pharmacology. 87 
Hakim Ma'sum's Qarabadin-i Ma'sum deals with the preparation of drugs, 
electuaries, pulps, pastes, syrups, tablets, collyriums, enemas, gargles 
and ointments, as well as the effects of tea and coffee. 88 Hakim Nuruddin 
'Ainul Mulk's Alfaz-i Adwiyya is an encyclopaedia of pharmacology, 89 while 
his Ilajat-i Dara Shukohi is a compendium of medical science basically 
instructing travellers on dietary precautions, anatomy, medicines etc. 90 

During the reign of Aurangzeb, Hakim Sanjak achieved much in the 
field of opthalmia. 91 Bernier says that his patron Danishmand Khan was 
well-versed in anatomy. 92 He even had works of William Harvey on the 
circulation of blood, and Pecquet translated these into Persian for him. 93 
Nurul Haq Sirhindi wrote Ainul Hayat, a rare work on plague. 94 Hakim 
Muhammad Akbar Arzani, a renowned physician of this reign, apart from 
translating a well-known commentary on the popular thirteenth-century 
pathological treatise by Najibuddin Samarqandi, 95 wrote a commentary 
on Chaghmini's Qanuncha. 96 Qazi Muhammad Arif wrote Tibb-i Qazi 'Arif, 
a general work on medicine containing prescriptions for diseases that are 
especially indigenous to India. 97 

It appears from the surviving manuscripts of works written on 
medicine and other sciences, now preserved in various repositories 98 that 
in Mughal India a large number of books on medicine were either written 
or compiled, translated or commented upon (see Tables I and II). Under 













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the early Mughals (sixteenth to seventeenth centuries) and later Mughals 
(eighteenth century) the largest number of books written belonged to the 
field of medicine, as compared to astronomy and mathematics, the other 
two popular fields of study. A sudden impetus to the collection and writing 
of books on medicine started in the sixteenth century, which continued 
down to the eighteenth century. This trend was confined generally to 
works in Persian and Sanskrit; the number of books in Arabic, on the 
other hand, either declined or remained stable. 

Table II shows the trend of specialized books on medicine developing 
during the sixteenth century. The seventeenth century saw some decline 
followed by a steep rise under the later Mughals. The trend of anthologies 
and compendia, as well as translations of previous works also developed 
from the sixteenth century onwards. 

An interesting question can be asked about the physicians of medieval 
India: were these tablbs dogmatic in their approach or were they open to 
change? Some idea in this respect can be had from the discussion that is 
reported to have taken place at Akbar's court in 1603, on the use of tobacco 
In this year Asad Beg Qazwini brought to the court from Bijapur a small 
sample of tobacco and a smoking pipe for the emperor. When Akbar showed 
an inclination to smoke, Hakim Ali Gilani sought to dissuade him arguing 
that as nothing was mentioned regarding tobacco in 'our medical books , 
it would be risky to use it without making further investigations: 

Infact this [tobacco] is an untried drug. None of the old medical authorities 
(hukama) have written about it. How can we suggest that His Majesty take 
such a thing whose real essence is unknown? It is not proper for His Majesty to 
take it. It is not necessary for us to follow the Europeans and to adopt a thing 
not known to our sages, and without experiment." 

While one may not disapprove in principle of the advice that Hakim 
Ali Gilani gave on that occasion, one cannot help noting the intrinsic cause 
of the hakim's line of argument. For him nothing was permissible that 
was not sanctioned by the texts of unani tibb handed down by the great 
masters of earlier times. This obviously applied to the new ideas regarding 
medicine that were coming at this time from the west. However we find 
him advocating 'experiment' before accepting a new thing, although he 
was at the same time dissuading the emperor from making the experiment 
with smoking tobacco! 

But then, did this mean that the urge to improvise was absent among 
the Indian physicians? An answer to this question may be found in the 
response of Asad Beg Qazwini to the objection of Hakim Ali: 

It is a wonderful thing that all customs of the world have come about (at one 
time or the other), and from the time of Adam to this day everything has come 
by and by Whenever anything new appears among one people, it gets to be 
known all over the world, and all people adopt it. Scholars and physicians need 


to apply themselves to learn of its usefulness or ill-effect and to experiment 
(with it). May be, [as of now] they just do not know its [tobacco's] benefits. Thus 
China-root (chob-i chini) was not present in old times, and has appeared recently 
and is yet found beneficial in so many diseases. 100 

The China-root was a Chinese discovery 101 which was easily accepted 
by the practitioners of the hikmat in India. According to Linschoten this 
Chinese remedy 'since it became known in India, they (the Indian 
physicians) would never use any other remedy.' 102 Garcia da Orta also 
alludes to the use of China-root by the Indian physicians as a cure for 
syphilis. 103 

A stray reference by Manucci suggests that the surgeons, at least of 
the Deccan, improvised techniques that were a step forward towards the 
as yet unknown field of rhinoplasty, on which the modern plastic surgery 
is founded. He says that the native surgeons of Bijapur could fashion a 
crude nose for those who had this organ severed: 

They would cut the skin of the forehead above the eyebrows and make it fall 
down over the wounds on the nose. Then, giving it a twist, so that the live flesh 
might meet the other surface, and by healing applications, they fashioned for 
them a nose, though imperfect. 104 

Manucci says he saw many persons with such noses. 105 He does not 
mention if the patients were operated upon under sedatives or not. 
However, G.T. Vigne, a 19 th century traveller who visited Kangra in 1839 
fills the gaps left by Manucci. He informs us that during the operation to 
model the nose, 'opium, bang or wine' was given to the patients to make 
them senseless. He further informs us that the skin cut from the forehead 
was sewn on the skin below and supported by a piece of cotton. An ointment 
containing blue vitriol was thereafter applied to the wounds. Vigne traced 
back the practice to the reign of Akbar. 1 "" 

Variolation ( tika), which was an inoculation of a healthy individual 
with true smallpox, which produces a milder attack than spontaneous 
infection does and confers immunity on the individual against future 
attacks was also used by the Indian physicians. Describing the technique 
as practiced in Bengal by the vaidyas, Holwell writes: 

The inhabitants of Bengal, knowing the usual time when the inoculating 
Brahmins annually return, observe strictly the regimen enjoined . . .; this 
preparation consists only in abstaining for a month from fish, milk, and ghee; 
the prohibition offish respects only the native Portuguese and Mahomedans, 
who abound in every province of the empire. When the Brahmins begin to 
inoculate, they pass from house to house and operate at the door .... The 
instrument they make use of is of iron, about four inches and a half long, and of 
the size of a large crow quill, the middle is twisted, and the one end is steeled 
and flatted about an inch from the extremity, and the eighth of an inch broad; 
this extremity is brought to a very keen edge, and two sharp corners; the other 
end of the instrument is an earpicker, and the instrument is precisely the same 
as the Barbers of Indostan use to cut the nails, and depurate the ears of their 
customers. 107 


Whether the Unani physician adopted this technique of variolation 
to treat the small pox, we do not know. However we hear of late 17 th - 
early 18 th century hakim, Hakim Muhammad Arzani attempting to cure 
his son suffering from small pox by pricking and draining out the vesicles 
with the aid of gold needles. 108 

In Mughal India, like the other professions, we find the physician's 
profession also tended to become hereditary in character. 109 There are 
innumerable cases of physician's profession running in the same family. 
One might give the example of Hakim Ali Gilani and his brothers of 
Akbar's time who were all famous tabibs. Their father was also a physician. 
Muqarrab Khan, the surgeon and veterinary of Jahangir's reign, was the 
son of a physician and a surgeon. His grandfather too had been a practicing 
physician at Sirhind. His nephew had also imbibed the art of healing and 
surgery. The list of physicians provided in A'in-i Akbari, Muntakhabu-t 
Tawarikh, Ma'asir-i Rahimi, and Tabaqat-i Akbari, as well as references 
in Lahori's Padshahnama, Ma'asir-i 'AlamgM, and the European 
travellers' accounts, all point towards the hereditary nature of this 
profession. As had been pointed out at the outset, the practice of imparting 
education in tibb by a father to his son was common in Mughal India and 
one might suggest that it was an effective method of perpetuating the 
profession in the same families. 


Badauni's Code for Physicians 110 

And of this genre [of improper conduct] is the pursuit of medical 
practice without past experience. Just as legal opinion given without 
knowledge can ruin spiritual life, so medical treatment given without 
wisdom can destroy physical life. Any one who has not read the books of 
medicine with reputed physicians for a number of years, not put them to 
use for long years of life, nor obtained knowledge of the properties of drugs, 
nor received authorization for medical practice from masters [in the 
profession], but simply wishes that by force of some intuition, he may 
treat people without having any experience and consider it the means of 
gaining proximity to rulers and kings, is not a physician, no expert master, 
but a blood-shedder like a crude executioner. It is incumbent on the rulers 
of Islam to suppress such reputeless set [of persons]. 

One of the conditions for the physician is this that he should be a 
proficient physician by knowledge, and in word and deed truthful, and 
compassionate towards all creatures. For him there should be no difference 
between friend and foe, acquaintance and stranger. Nor should he be an 
idle-talker, favour-seeker, self-praiser, unjust, and indifferent. When he 


engages in treating a patient he should solicit success from the Almighty. 
He should not impose an insupportable burden on a patient who is 
destitute and needy and should not let his self-interest intrude. He should 
attend to the needy more than to the well-provided. So far as he can, he 
should himself provide medicine and diet to the destitute patients out of 
his own resources, obtaining [spiritual] recompense and gratitude in 
return. He should not abstain from instructing other people and should 
not fully rely on compounded drugs as such are all suspect. 

He should not place entire confidence in his own opinion alone, and if 
he finds himself unable to treat an ailment, he should on his own consult 
a more knowledgeable physician, and should not at all consider it 
disgraceful to appear as a beginner, but rather make him [the senior 
physician] a collaborator with himself and not strive after contention. After 
exchanging opinions, whatever is found correct should be followed whether 
it means following someone else's opinion or his own. 

If the disease happens to be incurable he should not terrify the patient 
and should not make him despair of life. Although [ultimately] no one 
can prevent death, the duty of the physician is that he should by artful 
devices lead the patient in this physical world of four elements from one 
year further to another. He should not be too much solicitous of praise by 
people, and of the wherewithal of splendour. 

In seeking glory, there is no better deed than securing cures. 

As far as possible he should personally attend upon the patient, and 
if he does not have the time he should depute his students and assistants, 
with full effort and effectual arrangement, to wait upon the sick. 

These counsels are furnished out of sincerity. It in incumbent upon 
him [the physician] to investigate the human body (tan-i ausaf). But in 
regard to counsels on matters that appertain to the practice of medicine, 
these are described in the books of godly physicians (hukama-i ilahi). A 
recital of these does not fall within the province of the expounders of ethics. 
'And He is the curer of Disease, and is Himself free of Disease' (Quran). 

Notes and References 

1. For the growth of the Greco- Arab system in the early Medieval India, see 
Tazimuddin Siddiqui, 'Unani Medicine in India During the Delhi Sultanate', 
Studies in History of Medicine, (henceforth SIHM) vol. II, no. 3, September 
1978, pp. 183 - 90. 

2. For the rise of tibb and its practictioners in Mughal India, see for example, 
Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi, 'Physicians as Professionals in Medieval India', in 
Deepak Kumar (ed.), Disease and Medicine in India A Historical Overview, 
New Delhi, 2001, pp.40 - 65. 


3. John Fryer, A New Account of East India and Persia in Eight letters being 
Nine years Travel Begun 1672 and Finished 1681, Delhi, 1985, pp. 114 - 115. 

4. Careri, Indian Travels ofThevenot and Careri, ed., Surendranath Sen, New 
Delhi, 1949, p. 247. 

5. Niccolao Manucci, Storia Do Mogor, tr., with Intro. & notes, William Irvine, 
Calcutta, 1966, vol. Ill, p. 214. 

6. Edward Ives (1755-57) quoted in H.K.Kaul, Travellers India: An Anthology, 
Delhi, 1979, p. 299; See also Deepak Kumar, ed, Disease and Medicine in India, 
op.cit., Introduction. 

7. Disease and Medicine in India, pp. xvi-xvii 

8. Careri, Indian Travels, pp. 161-62. 

9. C. Markham, Colloquies on the Simples and Drugs of India by Garcia da Orta, 
London, 1913, pp. ix, 195. 

10. John Fryer, A New Account of East India and Persia, p. 114. 

11. The Commentary of Father Monserrate, S.J. (on his Journey to the Court of 
Akbar), translated by J.S.Hoyland, annotated by S.N. Banerjee, Calcutta, 1922, 

12. 'Abdu-1 Baqi Nihawandl, Ma'asir-i Rahimi, ed. Hidayat Husain, Calcutta, 1931, 
vol. II, p. 274. 

13. Abu-1 Fazl, A'in-i Akbari, translated and edited by Blochmann, Vol. I, Calcutta, 
1927, 3 rd 'edn. 1977, Book II, p. 289. 

14. Cf. Abdul Jalil, 'The Evolution and Development of Graeco-Arab Medical 
Education', Studies in History of Medicine, vol. 11, No. 3, September 1978; see 
also Hakim Kausar Chandpuri, Atibba-i 'Ahad-i Mughaliya, Karachi, 1960. 

15. For details on medical education see also Abdul Jalil, 'The Evolution and 
Development of Greco-Arab Medical Education", SIHM; A.H. Israili, 'Education 
of Unani Medicine during Mughal Period", SIHM, vol. IV, no. 3, September 

16. Abdu-1 Qadir Badauni, Muntakhab ut-Tawarikh, ed. Molvi Ahmad Ali, 
Calcutta, 1896, vol. Ill, p. 166. 

17. See for example Abdu-1 Baqi Nihawandl, Ma'asir-i Rahimi, ed. Hidayat Husain, 
Calcutta, 1931, vol. Ill, pp. 44, 46, 51, 52, 745-55 etc.; Muhammad Sadiq, 
Tabaqat-i Shahjahani, MS. Research Library, Department of History : Aligarh 
Muslim University, Aligarh, p. 466; Saqi Musta'ad Khan, Ma'asir-i Alamgiri, 
Calcutta, 1870-73, vol. Ill, pp. 17, 45-46, 50; Ma'asir-ul Umara, op.cit., vol. I, 
pp 100-101 etc. 

18. Abdu-1 Hamid Lahori, Padshahnama, ed. M. Kabiruddin and M. Abdur Rahim, 
Calcutta, 1867-8, vol. I, pp. 345-46. 

19. See 'Ali Muhammad Khan, Mirat-i Ahmadi, ed. Nawab Ali, Baroda, 1972-78, 
vol. I, p.209. 


20. Mirza Sangin Beg, Sairu'l Manazil, ed. Sharif Husain Qasmi, n.d. p. 8. This 
dar ush Shifa is probably the same which is referred to by Gopal Rai Surdaj 
(Darul Ulum, f. 45(b)). 

21. Monserrate, Commentary, p.103. 

22. Lahori, Padshahnama, I, ii, p. 345. 

23. Mirat-i Ahmadi (supplement), pp. 186-87. 

24. For the hospital at Surat, see Ruq'at-i Alamgiri, Nizami Press, Kanpur, 1273 
AH, Letter No. 125. See also Surat Documents, ff. 174(b), 175(a). 

25. Mirat-i Ahmadi, I, p. 209 

26. Ma'asirul Umara, II, p. 936. 

27. See Hakim Kausar Chandpuri, Atibba-i ahad-i Mughaliya, Karachi, 1960; 
Abdul Jalil, 'Greco-Arab medical education"; for state aid to dispensaries see, 
for example, Maulana Abul Hasan, Muraqqat-i Hasan, MS (transcribed copy 
of the MS in Research Library, Deartment of History, AMU, Aligarh), pp. 330- 

28. Cf. Wasti Nayyar, 'Unani Medicine in the Mughal Period", Nabbaz, March 1968, 
vol. 13, p. 3. 

29. Manucci, Storia, II, p.332 

30. Farid Bhakkari, Zakhlrat uI-Khawanin, ed. Moinul Haque, Karachi, 1961-64, 
vol. I, pp. 243-45; Ma'asir ul Umara, I, p. 569. 

31. Selected Documents of Aurangzeb's Reign, ed. Yusuf Husain, Hyderabad, 1958, 
pp. 120, 122-23. 

32. Manucci, StoriaJI, pp. 373-74. 

33. Fryer, A New Account of East India and Persia, p. 132. 

34. Manucci, Storia, II, pp. 328-29. 

35. Ibid., II, p. 319. 

36. Ibid., II, pp. 193-94, 195. 

37. Ibid., II, p. 383-84 

38. Ibid., II, p. 215 

39. Khwaja Kamgar Husaini, Ma'asir-i Jahangiri, ed. Azra Alvi, New Delhi, 1978, 
pp. 50-52; Ma'dsir ul Umara, I, p. 577. 

40. Selected Documents of Aurangzeb's Reign, pp. 122-23; See also Selected 
Documents of Shahjahan's Reign, ed., Y.H. Yahya, Hyderabad, 1950, pp. 211- 

41. For details of these paintings see Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi, 'Depiction of Middle 
Class Professions and Professionals in Mughal Miniatures", Madhya Kalin 
Bharat, 7, ed. Man Habib, Delhi, 2000 (Hindi). 


42. Abul Fath Gilani, Ruqa'at-i Abul Fath, ed. Bashir Ahmad, Lahore, 1968, pp. 

43. Salih Kanbu Lahorl, 'Amal-i Salih, Lahore, 1960, vol. II, pp. 77-78. 

44. Fryer, A New Account of East India and Persia, p. 115. 

45. Ibid., p. 94. 

46. Badauni, Muntakhab, II, p 383. 

47. Amongst others this view is strongly endorsed by Moreland, India at the Death 
ofAkbar, Delhi, 1962, p. 79, and B.B. Misra, The Indian Middle Classes, London, 
1961, p. 59. 

48. Tavernier, Travelsin India, tr. V. Ball and ed. William Crooke, I, p. 240 

49. Badauni, Muntakhab, III, pp. 163,170, 315. 

50. Manucci, Storia, I, p. 115. 

51. Badauni, Muntakhab, III, p. 169. 

52. Banarasi Das, Ardha Kathanak, tr. and annotated by Mukund Lath, Jaipur, p. 
14, text, verse 15 and pp. 31-32, text, verses 185-92. For his biograpgy see 

53. Ibid., p. 70, text, verse 488. 

54. Surat Singh, Tazkira-i Pir Hassu Tell, MS., Department of History, Aligarh 
Muslim University, ff. 48(b), 171(a), 125(b)-126(a). 

55. Abdul Hayy, Nuzhat-ul Khawatir, edited by Sharifuddin Ahmad, vol. V, 
Hyderabad, 1962-79, p. 357. For another such example see Anonymous, Iqbal 
Nama, translated by S. Hasan Askari, Patna, 1983, p. 213. 

56. Letters ofBalkrishan Brahman, MS., Rieu, 83, Add.16895, ff. 125(a), 319(a) - 

57. See for example Francois Pyrard, The Voyage of Francois Pyrard of Laval to 
the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas and Brazil, tr. and ed. by Albert 
Gray and H.C.P. Bell, vol. I, Haklyut Society, London, n.d., p. 373; Manucci, 
Storia III, p. 129; J. Fryer, A New Account of East India and Persia, p. 27; 
Carre, The Travels of the Abbe Carre in India and the Near East, 1672 to 1674, 
vol. I, tr. Lady Fawcet, ed. C. Fawcet and R. Burn, New Delhi, 1990, pp. 268- 

58. 'An old man consults a doctor', Bustan-i Sa'adi, Aboulala Soudavar Collection, 
f. 176r, cf. S.C. Welch, Annemarie Schimmel et al., The Emperor's Album: 
Images ofMugha India, New York, 1987, fig. 25. 

59. Fryer, A New Account of East India and Persia, p. 115. 

60. As a private practitioner, Manucci was offered Rs 4,000 by a patient (Manucci, 
Storia, III, p. 132); in the service of Shah Alam he received Rs 300 p.m. (ibid., 
II, p. 215) apart from occasional gifts ranging from Rs 400 to Rs 200 for 
individual treatment of the members of the princes' haram (ibid., II, p. 331). 
The government physicians on the other hand had a salary of Rs. 2 per day (i.e. 


Rs. 60 p.m.). See Nadeem Rezavi, 'Physicians as Professionals in Medieval 

61. Manucci, time and again, laments over this hostility; see Storia II p 381- IV 
pp. 205-10. 

62. John Huighen Van Linschoten, Voyages to East Indies, vol. l.HakluytSocietv 
1885, p. 230. 

63. Manucci, Storia, II, p. 333. 

64. Ibid., Ill, p. 187. 

65. See for example, ibid, III, p. 129. 

66. See Dala'il ulBul, MS., Sir Sulaiman Collection, 493/14; Subhanullah Collection, 
616/22; and Dala'il un Nabz, MS., Sir Sulaiman Collection, 492/ 12, 
Subhanullah, 616/22, Maulana Azad Library, Aligarh Muslim University. 

67. MS., Maulana Azad Library, Aligarh, University Farsiyya Funun, No. 56. 

68. MS., Bodlein, Persian MSS. Catalogue, 3/76, 2757/3, cf. A. Rahman et al., 
Bibliography of Source Materials, pp. 266-69. 

69. Bahrul Jawahir, MS., Maulana Azad Library, University Farsiya Funun, 4, 
pub. Calcutta, edited by Abdul Majid, 1830. Cf. A. Rahman et. al, Bibliography 
of Source Materials, p. 113. 

70. MS., Bankipur Library, Patna, 11-40; 1013, cf. ibid., p. 4. 

71. Badauni, Muntakhab, III, pp. 169-70; Tabaqat-i Akbari, II, pp. 483-84. 

72. MS., Central State Library, Hyderabad, Tibb, 254; Asiatic Society of Bengal, 
Persian MSS Catalogue, Soc. 722, cf. A. Rahman et al., Bibliography of Source 
Materials, p. 41. 

73. Badauni, Muntakhab, III, p. 230 

74. Ibid., Ill, p. 164; Tabaqat-i Akbari, II, p. 481. 

75. MS., Salarjung, Mashriqi Kitabkhana, Hyderabad, cf. A. Rahman et. al., A 
Bibliography of Source Materials, p. 16. 

76. Ibid., pp. 144-45. 

77. Tuzuk-i Jahangirl, I, p. 152. 

78. See R.L. Verma and V. Bijlani, 'Hakim Ali Gilani: Assessment of his Place in 
Greco-Medicine', Studies in History of Medicine, vol. IV, No. 2 June 1980 dd 

79. Tarjuma-i Kitab-ul Qanun, MS., Riza Library, Rampur, No. 1272. 

80. Tibb-i Ferishta, MS., Maulana Azad Library, Subhanullah Collection, No 616/ 
17, ff. 1-7. 

81. Mufradat-i Sahih, MS., Maulana Azad Library, Subhanullah Collection No 

82. Cf. A. Rahman et. al., A Bibliography of Source Materials, p. 203. 


83. See Tuzuk-i JahangM, I, p. 347,11, pp. 344, 364; Lahori, Padshahnama, I, p.350. 

84. Tuzuk-i Jahangiii, p. 347. 

85. Lahori, Padshahnama, II, pp. 350-51. 

86. Cf. A. Rahman et al., Bibliography of Source Materials, p. 21. 

87. Ibid., pp. 202,134,164. 

88. MS., Maulana Azad Library, Subhanullah Collection, No. 615/4. 

89. MS., Maulana Azad Library, Farsiya Funun (Suppl), Tibb,9. 

90. MS., Maulana Azad Library, Subhanullah Collection, No. 610, 3/9. 

91. Ma'asir-i 'Alamgiri, p. 84. 

92. Bernier, Travels in the Mogul Empire, pp. 353-54. 

93. Ibid., pp. 324-25. 

94. Cf. A. Rahman et al.. Bibliography of Source Material, p. 165. 

95. Tibb-i Akbari, MSS., Maulana Azad Library, Subhanullah Collection, Nos. 616/ 
15,616/6 cr. 

96. Mufarrihul Qulub, MSS., Maulana Azad Library, University Farsiya Funun, 
58; Subhanullah Collection, 61612; Sir Sulaiman Collection, 580/5. 

97. MS., Maulana Azad Library, Subhanullah Collection, 616/16. 

98. Tables 3 and 4 have been prepared on the basis of the information con tained 
in A. Rahman et. al., Bibliography of Source Materials. 

99. Asad Beg, Ahwal-i Asad Beg QazwM, MS. BM. OR. 1996 (Rotograph in 
Department of History, Aligarh Muslim University), ff. 36-37. 

100. Ibid., I have used the translation of the passage by Irfan Habib, see his paper 
'Inside and Outside the Systems', in Deepak Kumar (ed.), Disease and Medicine 
in India, pp. 71-84 

101. Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China, vol. 6: Biology and 
Biological Technology, Part I: Botany, Cambridge, 1965, pp. 160-61 

102. Linschoten, op.cit., pp. 106-12. 

103. For the dissemination of Indian medical drugs and practices in Europe, see for 
example, Rajesh Kochar, 'The Truth Behind the Legend: European Doctors in 
Pre-Colonial India', Journal ofBiosciences, vol. 24, no. 3, September 1999, pp. 

104. Manucci, Storia, II, p. 282. 

105. Ibid. 

106. G.T. Vigne, Travels in Kashmir, Ladak, Iskardu, &c, 1844, Karachi, 1987, pp. 

107. Cf. Dharampal, (ed.), Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century: 
Some Contemporary European Accounts, Delhi, 1983, pp 196, 201-4. 


108. Cf. R.L. Verma, 'The growth of Graeco- Arabian Medicine in Medieval India', 
Indian Journal of History of Science, vol. V, no. 2, pp. 359-60. 

109. See in this regard the statement of Bernier, Travels, p. 259. 

1 10. Abdul Qadir Badauni, Nijatu'rRashld, edited by Sayyid Muinul Haque, Lahore, 
1972, pp. 168-69. This passage has been translated by Prof.Shireen Moosvi 
who very kindly allowed me to use it. For a discussion on the physician's code 
in Mughal empire see her A Sixteenth-Century Code for Physicians", in Deepak 
Kumar Disease and Medicine in India, pp.66 - 70.